Finding a cure for cancer and battling the rising cost of cancer were two of the points Gov. Rick Perry delivered in his fourth State of the State address Tuesday.
The governor defended his executive order making Texas the first state to mandate vaccinations for girls against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.
"For the first time ever, we have a vaccine that can prevent cancer," Perry told the Legislature and guests.
"I understand the concerns, which is why parents can opt out if they so choose. Others may focus on the cause of this cancer. There is so much we don't know about cancer. If I err, I'm going to err on the side of protecting life."
In a statement on the governor's Web site, he said: "The HPV vaccine does not promote sex, it protects women's health. In the past, young women who have abstained from sex until marriage have contracted HPV from their husbands and faced the difficult task of defeating cervical cancer. This vaccine prevents that from happening.
"Providing the HPV vaccine doesn't promote sexual promiscuity anymore than providing the Hepatitis B vaccine promotes drug use. If the medical community developed a vaccine for lung cancer, would the same critics oppose it claiming it would encourage smoking?"
Perry also proposed Texas sell its state lottery to a private firm to help pay for getting more Texans covered by health insurance.
Perry first discussed the plan in an interview last week with an Austin newspaper.
The newspaper reported that other states, including Indiana and Illinois, are considering such proposals. In Texas, the lottery reported more than $3.77 billion in sales in the 2006 fiscal year, the highest amount in its 14-year history.
The lottery contributes $1 billion per year to public schools.
Perry stressed ways to get more Texans covered by health insurance and to help more businesses able to afford to offer it.
"No child chooses to be born into poverty," he said during his address. He continued that no parent wants to offer these situations to their offspring. "It's a harsh reality of their lives."
In a plan he called "Healthier Texas," the governor said he wants to redirect money to 'compensated care.' Perry proposed a funding pool that would help some employees - those uninsured Texans who live below the national poverty level - assistance with monthly insurance premiums.
He said the challenge is for all Texans. "I don't believe the answer is government-mandated insurance."
In a return to the cancer topic, Perry acknowledged guests whose daughter battled brain cancer twice in her 4 years of life.
"Cancer does not discriminate," the governor said. "We must do everything in our power to defeat cancer. These people are our neighbors, our colleagues, our co-workers, our husbands, our wives, our precious children."
He said he wants to state to create a long-term source for research and treatment of the disease.
Perry said expanded cancer research "will be a goal for the Legislature."
He added while there are hundreds of thousands of cancer survivors in the state, there will be 95,000 Texans diagnosed with the disease this year and 34,000 who will lose the fight.
The growing numbers of obesity also worried the twice-elected governor. He said he does not want to see this generation "be the first to live shorted lives than their parents."
In an initiative with the Texas Education Agency, Perry said the government has set a fitness regime for school children.
He hopes this goal will increase academic standards and get children in shape.
Perry took over as governor in December 2000 after then-Gov. George W. Bush resigned to become president. Some conservatives have brought up Perry as a possible vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket in 2008.
Story courtesy of the Associated Press.